A recent study involving 8,367 patients undergoing treatment for opioid-use disorder has challenged the notion that cannabis serves as an effective remedy for overcoming opioid addiction. The study, published in “The American Drug and Alcohol Abuse” Journal, revealed that marijuana, when used outside of medical supervision, fails to exert any noteworthy impact on opioid consumption.
The study carries significant implications for treatment programs in the United States, some of which impose a prerequisite for patients to abstain from marijuana before qualifying for life-saving interventions. This is predicated on the idea that people who use cannabis are more inclined to use opioids for nonmedical purposes.
The study also casts doubt on the competing and growingly popular theory that suggests cannabis can help wean individuals with opioid-use disorder off of opioids. Opioids, while effective in alleviating pain, harbor the risk of addiction, contributing to an ongoing crisis in the United States.
The nation witnesses approximately 120 daily deaths resulting from opioid-related overdoses, while the economic toll of opioid addiction and related fatalities surpasses $1 trillion annually.
While the most common justification for medical cannabis legalization is pain management, more and more states are expanding the list of acceptable cannabis-treatable diseases to include problems that can be treated with opioids, including the disorder in certain instances. The researchers attributed this in part to the perception that cannabis is less dangerous now that it is allowed for recreational use in several states.
Nevertheless, the study fails to provide clarity on whether marijuana aids or impedes the treatment of opioid addiction. While certain studies suggest that marijuana helps mitigate pain and alleviate opioid-withdrawal symptoms, others propose that it may elevate the likelihood of reverting to opioid use.
The study, a meta-analysis consolidating data from 10 long-term trials, spanned an average of 10 months. Participants were monitored for nonmedical opioid use, encompassing the consumption of opioids not prescribed to them and exceeding prescribed dosages. The study compared the frequency of such use between cannabis users and nonusers.
The results revealed no discernible connection between marijuana use and the rates of nonprescribed opioid use. According to the authors, the results neither support nor refute worries that cannabis use may increase the use of nonprescribed opioids in patients receiving treatment for opioid addiction.
The authors cautioned, however, that the study had limitations, including inconsistencies in the methodologies of the studies incorporated into the meta-analysis and systematic review. This includes variances in the baseline condition of opioid usage as well as disparities in the methods used to measure cannabis and opioid use. Furthermore, while the findings are relevant to cannabis usage in general, people with cannabis-use disorders could not benefit from them.
This research goes to show that patients who are using medical marijuana products from one of the many entities such as Curaleaf Holdings Inc. (CSE: CURA) (OTCQX: CURLF) need to consult an experienced professional before trying marijuana for the different health conditions they want help with.
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